New York Times Claims “Police Missteps” In Trayvon Martin Case Hurt Prosecution—But They Don’t


The New York Times and MSNBC have respectively just published and reposted a misleading smear of the Sanford Police Department (SPD): Police Missteps In Trayvon Martin Case Hurt Prosecution, MSNBC, May 16, 2012 by Serge Kovaleski. The implication: there will be no justice for Trayvon Martin:

Small-city department doesn`t have a homicide unit, handles few killings yearly

SANFORD, Fla.—The killing of Trayvon Martin here two and a half months ago has been cast as the latest test of race relations and equal justice in America. But it was also a test of a small city police department that does not even have a homicide unit and typically handles three or four murder cases a year.

An examination of the Sanford Police Department’s handling of the case shows a series of missteps—including sloppy work—and circumstances beyond its control that impeded the investigation and may make it harder to pursue a case that is already difficult enough.

[VDARE.com note: This story is also available as Trayvon Martin Case Shadowed by Series of Police Missteps, New York Times, May 16, 2012, but the NYT keeps trying to limit the number of free articles you can read. ]

However, nothing in the Kovaleski allegations rises to the level of incompetence—at least not if by incompetence one means that evidence of Zimmerman`s guilt was lost, overlooked or destroyed.  And, as will be seen, all the minor failures of the investigators, and the one major failure, were not in Zimmerman’s favor.

In fact, the whole contrived story is predicated on the obvious belief that certain evidence exists—without any evidence that said evidence exists at all.

Probably Kovaleski and his editors expect only their headline to be read, not the long plodding article. The goal is not justice, but a conviction. It’s typical of the mounting desperation of the Left as the case against Zimmerman falls apart.

  • First Kovaleski claim:

“On the night of the shooting, door-to-door canvassing was not exhaustive enough, said a law enforcement official familiar with the investigation. If officers had been more thorough, they might have determined that Mr. Martin, 17, was a guest—as opposed to an intruder—at a gated community called the Retreat at Twin Lakes. “

Here Kovaleski is implying that there were witnesses that the police missed and have not since come forward.  He also assumes that the mystery witnesses would contradict Zimmerman`s claims of assault and self-defense.  

But since no witnesses against Zimmerman have come forward, nor any other witnesses, there is no evidence whatsoever that the canvass for witnesses was in any way inadequate.  It is not as if some miracle witness for the prosecution is in hiding because of threat from Zimmerman supporters.  All the threats of violence and hatred have come from the Left and the black community—not from partisans of Zimmerman. 

And how is it relevant if the police missed that Martin was temporarily visiting there that night?  It’s not relevant. Being a guest in the community didn’t give him the right to violently assault Zimmerman.

Martin was certainly there so little time that Zimmerman had never seen him before.  And even if Zimmerman had known Martin was staying there, his hoodie would have precluded Zimmerman identifying him.

“Investigators found no witnesses who saw the fight start. “

Maybe because they don`t exist?  

“Others saw parts of a struggle they could not clearly observe or hear. One witness, though, provided information to the police that corroborated Mr. Zimmerman’s account of the struggle, according to a law enforcement official.”

  • Second Kovaleski claim:

The police took only one photo at the scene of any of Mr. Zimmerman’s injuries—a full-face picture of him that showed a bloodied nose—before paramedics tended to him. It was shot on a department cellphone camera and was not downloaded for a few days, an oversight by the officer who took it.”

Well, that certainly is a major blunder by the police. But fortunately a neighbor took photos that show that Zimmerman was the victim of Martin`s wilding attack. 

And why did Kovaleski suggest that this error hurts the prosecution? 

  • Third Kovaleski claim:

“The vehicle that Mr. Zimmerman was driving when he first spotted Mr. Martin was mistakenly not secured by officers as part of the crime scene. The vehicle was an important link in the fatal encounter because it was where Mr. Zimmerman called the police to report a suspicious teenager in a hooded sweatshirt roaming through the Retreat. Mr. Zimmerman also said he was walking back to the vehicle when he was confronted by Mr. Martin, who was unarmed, before shooting him.”

But the vehicle was not “an important link.” It was far from the crime scene. Unless Zimmerman left a note in it confessing to the crime, there was no error.  Even if there were a confessional note, or for that matter Klan literature, it is legally irrelevant.  Even if Zimmerman were a Klansman on the hunt, the fact that Trayvon attacked Zimmerman first and Zimmerman was on the ground getting a beating is justification enough for the use of deadly force.  Even Klansmen have a right of self-defense.  The standard in self-defense is that the use of force to defend oneself must be objectively reasonable. Intent is irrelevant.

Kovaleski insinuates there was missing evidence in the vehicle.  Perhaps he should let us know what that might be. 

  • Fourth Kovaleski claim:

“The police were not able to cover the crime scene to shield evidence from the rain, and any blood from cuts that Mr. Zimmerman suffered when he said Mr. Martin pounded his head into a sidewalk may have been washed away.”

Again, how does this minor problem hurt the prosecution

Remember, prosecutors have a special ethical responsibility to see to the administration of justice, not obtain a conviction at any cost—unlike defense attorneys who can lie, cheat and steal to get their clients off.

  • Fifth Kovaleski claim:

“The police did not test Mr. Zimmerman for alcohol or drug use that night, and one witness said the lead investigator quickly jumped to a conclusion that it was Mr. Zimmerman, and not Mr. Martin, who cried for help during the struggle.”

Two wild allegations in one run-on sentence.  First, the police had no “probable cause,” the standard to obtain a search warrant, to believe that Zimmerman was under the influence. They could not therefore submit an affidavit to a judge for a search warrant in order to obtain blood samples to test.  They could have asked Zimmerman, but most likely the SPD had no reason to ask, much less obtain blood samples without his consent. (Police can usually tell if someone is drunk or stoned—they see people under the influence every day.) Remember the 4th Amendment applies here—even to “white” Hispanics. 

Second, the allegation that “the lead investigator quickly jumped to a conclusion” exonerating Zimmerman is an outright lie.  In fact, the lead investigator thought Zimmerman was guilty and actually had Zimmerman arrested.   Kovaleski appears to have forgotten the video of Zimmerman in handcuffs in the SPD station house. That is an arrest.  However the evidence for Zimmerman’s guilt was not there and he had to be released.

  • Sixth Kovaleski claim:

“Some Sanford officers were skeptical from the beginning about certain details of Mr. Zimmerman’s account. For instance, he told the police that Mr. Martin had punched him over and over again, but they questioned whether his injuries were consistent with the number of blows he claimed he received. “

Of course, when Zimmerman`s medical records were released (after Kovaleski had written his piece)  his broken nose, two black eyes, and lacerations on the back of his head were detailed for all to see.  Our reporter apparently did not know that all those injuries are consistent with Zimmerman`s claim that he was on the ground getting the beat down of his life.  He also doesn’t know that an autopsy has determined that Martin punched Zimmerman so hard he injured his own knuckles. [Trayvon Martin case: Details on Zimmerman injuries, but no answers, By Richard Fausset, May 16, 2012]

“They also suspected that some of the threatening and dramatic language that Mr. Zimmerman said Mr. Martin uttered during the struggle—like “You are going to die tonight”—sounded contrived.”

And that is an error?  That might be supposition by the officers involved. (But it contradicts Kovaleski’s earlier claim that the lead investigator believed Zimmerman).

In the end, the failure of the SPD to find evidence that helps the prosecution does not mean that they missed the evidence—but more likely means that such evidence is not there.

The decision by the first, unbiased State’s Attorney not to prosecute Zimmerman was correct.

The decision by special prosecutor Angela Corey to try Zimmerman is simply a politically-motivated lynching.

The blogger Federale (Email him) is a 4th generation Californian and a veteran of federal law enforcement, including service in the legacy Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Department of Homeland Security, and other federal law enforcement agencies.

Federale`s opinions do not represent those of the Department of Homeland Security or the federal government, and are an exercise of rights protected by the 1st Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.